What You Need to Earn to Live Comfortably in Each State

A six-figure salary is a prerequisite for a comfortable lifestyle in 11 states.
Where you live may determine if you have enough money left over for the bank.
Where you live may determine if you have enough money left over for the bank. / Eugene Mymrin/Moment/Getty Images
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As housing prices skyrocket around the country, more renters and first-time homebuyers are fleeing big cities for places that offer a lower cost of living. Interest rates, rent hikes, inflation, and lagging wages are pushing many Millennials and members of Gen Z to prioritize affordability when planning the next phases of their lives and careers. 

Unfortunately, big cities like New York and Los Angeles don't have a monopoly on priciness. Most places feel expensive these days, but some states are still easier on your wallet than others. To see which U.S. states are the most affordable and which are the least, check out the list below.

The Most and Least Expensive States

SmartAsset recently calculated the income a single adult working full-time would need to earn to live comfortably in each state. To define “comfortably,” the financial technology company leaned on the 50/30/20 rule of budgeting. This guideline dictates that only 50 percent of one’s salary should go to necessities like housing, groceries, and utilities, while 30 percent should be directed to discretionary spending (dining out, entertainment, etc.). That leaves 20 percent for savings. In other words, to “live comfortably” means you’re not just surviving paycheck to paycheck—you’re able to cover all your expenses and still have enough to save and occassionally splurge.

To no one’s surprise, states like California, Hawaii, and New York ranked as some of the most expensive places to call home. Edging them out for the top spot was Massachusetts, which requires an eyebrow-raising salary of $116,022 for a comfortable lifestyle. That means a resident needs to make $55.78 per hour to afford rent, food, and more while having a bit left over in the bank. 

On the opposite end of the scale, West Virginia is the most affordable state to call home, requiring an average salary of just $78,790, which works out to around $37.88 an hour. But, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, even that number is too high for most people, as the typical salary for single, full-time workers in the U.S. is roughly $60,000. 

For a look at where your state ranks in terms of livability, check out the full list below.

The Salary Required to Live Comfortably in All 50 States

  1. Massachusetts // $116,022
  2. Hawaii // $113,693
  3. California // $113,651
  4. New York // $111,738
  5. Washington // $106,496
  6. Colorado // $103,293
  7. New Jersey // $103,002
  8. Maryland // $102,918
  9. Oregon // $101,088
  10. Rhode Island // $100,838
  11. Connecticut // $100,381
  12. Virginia // $99,965
  13. New Hampshire // $98,093
  14. Arizona // $97,344
  15. Georgia // $96,886
  16. Alaska // $96,762
  17. Vermont // $95,763
  18. Illinois // $95,098
  19. Delaware // $94,141
  20. Utah // $93,683
  21. Nevada // $93,434
  22. Florida // $93,309
  23. Maine // $91,686
  24. Pennsylvania // $91,312
  25. North Carolina // $89,690
  26. Minnesota // $89,232
  27. Idaho // $88,733
  28. South Carolina // $88,317
  29. Wyoming // $87,651
  30. Texas // $87,027
  31. Tennessee // $86,403
  32. Indiana // $85,030
  33. Montana // $84,739
  34. Kansas // $84,656
  35. Michigan // $84,365
  36. Wisconsin // $84,115
  37. Missouri // $84,032
  38. Alabama // $83,824
  39. Nebraska // $83,699
  40. New Mexico // $83,616
  41. Iowa // $83,366
  42. Mississippi // $82,742
  43. Louisiana // $82,451
  44. South Dakota // $81,453
  45. Ohio // $80,704
  46. Kentucky // $80,704
  47. North Dakota // $80,538
  48. Oklahoma // $80,413
  49. Arkansas // $79,456
  50. West Virginia // $78,790

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